Ellen Snortland Pasadena Weekly

Ellen Snortland Pasadena Weekly

Pasadena Weekly Columnist

Ukraine is on everyone’s mind now, including mine. “How do I write about Ukraine in a weekly publication? With developments happening at lightning speed, I am hopelessly behind even as I write this. The lag will be more pronounced by the time this reaches my readers’ eyes,” I say to no one in particular. And what about my clarion call to make everything about Women’s history in March?

Then it occurred to me that I could write about an ugly, shameful part of our history: the so-called “Red Scare” — aka McCarthyism — during the 1950s. People of all races and genders were impacted, and a significant number of U.S. citizens had their lives torn apart by smears and innuendo delivered via an ugly, career-killing blacklist. I’ll circle back to Ukraine later.

My family suffered because of my parents’ politics. My mother was a farmer’s daughter who had become a stressed-out farmer’s wife by the early ’50s. Why? My attorney father couldn’t find work in North Dakota because of persistent rumors that he was a “commie.”

Dad was an ardent Farmers Union and Farmers Co-Op person, as were most of the Scandinavian and German farmers in North Dakota. Why buy expensive farm equipment when it could easily be shared among neighbors? Common sense, right? “Commie sense,” thought the Red hunters, who considered unions tantamount to Soviet-style socialism. Does this ring any contemporary bells?

My dad was elected to be a states attorney for Steele County, North Dakota. He suspected there was a judge who didn’t like him, one that gossiped about dad’s left-leaning ways. The situation got so bad the family moved to Colorado. Dad’s brother had started a TV tube testing business there to serve that new-fangled mass media appliance, television. There used to be TV tube testing machines at the front of grocery stores, and dad stocked them. That was how he kept us in groceries; we helped out by harvesting wild asparagus and frog legs from the ditches around our little farm outside of Thornton, Colorado. This all happened before I was born, and I learned about this time mostly from family lore. I was a pink diaper baby!

The famous House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hauled people in to testify about their communist affiliations. The famous question was, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?” The heroes of that time refused to name names. HUAC wasn’t supposed to be a trial, but evil and amoral Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) made sure that the witnesses were blacklisted unless they turned on their colleagues. Many women were tainted forever by their communist sympathizing, regardless of their communist membership or nonmembership. Legends like Dorothy Parker, Gypsy Rose Lee, Judy Holliday, Uta Hagen and Lena Horne suffered greatly. Their careers were damaged, sometimes beyond repair.

Most of these heroic people must be spinning in their graves if they are privy to the disgusting display of pandering to Putin and his regime by prominent Republican politicians and Fox News goons.

I can’t fathom the disconnect, the out-and-out treachery of so many contemporary Republicans. In my father’s day, those in the GOP were mostly goody-goody grown-up Eagle Scout guys who cared about the future. They espoused issues that would be considered “socialism” now. Barry Goldwater would be appalled at the traitors in his party: He’s looking at you, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell and a litany of names too long to mention.

McCarthy ruined lives and created hysteria for years. Finally, McCarthy took his war on domestic communism too far by opening hearings on the Army. He alleged that the U.S. Army had been infiltrated by communists. He also attacked a young lawyer in the law firm of Joseph N. Welch, the erudite man representing the Army. Welch hit back hard.

As he struggled to keep cool, Welch looked into McCarthy’s eyes and said, “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” McCarthy stopped bellowing, “Point of order! Point of order,” when Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” McCarthy couldn’t answer. At that, the entire gallery of journalists, observers and representatives burst into applause and cheers. It was McCarthy’s last hurrah.

After years of Drumpf’s ugly rhetoric, what attorney Welch said seems tame now, but it was precisely what was needed and wanted for the time. Connecting those times with our own, recall that Drumpf cavorted with Roy Cohn, one of the most vicious men in U.S. history who was at one time McCarthy’s right hand.

Concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, who in our pantheon of politicians will ask the Putin fans in Congress and the Drumpf minions, “Have you no sense of decency?”

For goodness’ sakes, Putin is former KGB! He’s a quintessential Soviet communist who wants to revive not only a cold but hot war. Have we become so cowed and stupid that we can stand by and let our very own politicians play into the hands of autocrats because Drumpf wants to be one himself? Have we no decency? Ugh.

Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at ellen@beautybitesbeast.com.